Guam – It takes a village to raise a child, as the proverb goes, and by looking at the number of violent crimes committed by the island’s youth perhaps the community needs to do more to ensure that children grow in a safe environment as the most recent data shows a staggering rise in violent crime among minors.
Juvenile delinquency is one of the most important issues facing Guam as a community and it appears to be on the rise, with crimes becoming increasingly sophisticated while participants in the crimes becoming younger. Based on the latest data from the Department of Youth Affairs, the youngest client incarcerated is only 9 years old.
While this is alarming, the number of crimes committed by youth is even more disturbing.
Here’s a breakdown between data collected from 2015 to 2016:
- FAMILY VIOLENCE: from 15 to 22
- TERRORISTIC CONDUCT: from 2 to 21
- POSSESSION OF A DEADLY WEAPON: from 0 to 3
- ASSAULT: from 38 to 48
- THEFT OF A MOTOR VEHICLE: from 17 to 63
- ROBBERY: from 4 to 11
- BURGLARY: 28 to 58
- HOME INVASIONS: from 2 to 12
- CRIMINAL MISCHIEF: from 24 to 42
- CRIMINAL TRESPASS: from 13 to 25
- CRIMINAL FACILITATION: from 7 to 16
- CRIMES AGAINST PERSON: from 2 to 4
- CRIMES AGAINST THE COMMUNITY: from 6 to 27
There is no sugar coating the numbers. Sadly, our islands youth are falling victim to risk factors that increase the chances of younger people committing crimes. There are many factors that contribute to juvenile crime as Social Worker Jennifer Cruz from the Guam Behavioral and Wellness Center’s I Famagu’on-ta shares.
“One contributing factor could definitely be poverty. The families living situation. The chronic history of being involved in the legal system so even younger children see what their older siblings did or what their older cousins did so that also plays a factor. Boredom is a consistent theme that we see. Kids say they’re bored so they do things to entertain themselves and that entertainment revolves around crime or breaking the law,” said Cruz.
While at times youth can find themselves getting into trouble simply because they are bored or unsupervised, social worker Jesse Baleto points out that the child’s environment is also a contributing factor.
“Environment is a huge factor. Environment at home, school and then the community. At home significant factors have been highlighted like a history of substance or alcohol abuse, a history of poverty an impoverished environment really sets the conditions problematic family situations or conditions. History of mental health conditions; maybe there are caregivers that have mental health struggles so those can impact the child’s ability to thrive in the home. And then if you are considering the school environment, it may be a school where there are a lot of economic stresses and so the resources in that school may not be available to the youth. So assessments for special education, some learning delays may make the youth occupy their time otherwise. In the community, is it where there are multiple areas that have access to drugs and alcohol and people that engage in delinquent behavior. If they’re seeing that in their environment they’re more likely to follow those models of behaving,” noted Baleto.
Cruz says that parents should seek guidance from the schools to help identify behaviors early and to stay involved in their child’s lives to help reduce the risk factors.